College Students: Textbooks and Pizza don’t belong on Your Credit Card

It’s back to school time, and we can almost hear the collective groan of college students around the country who have been enjoying a much-deserved break. Almost a year ago, we wrote about the pitfalls and advantages associated with establishing credit as a college student, highlighting the importance of building a credit history while avoiding the use of a credit card for frivolous expenditures. According to Sallie Mae,  while some students use credit cards for necessities associated with completing their education, a large number of students end up using their credit cards for items such as textbooks, food and even cosmetics.

Recent data shows that on the average, over $1,100 is spent on textbooks and supplies per student annually. The same report illustrates that one pizza a week over the duration of a four-year program will cost a student approximately $2,000. If you’re using a credit card to buy books and pizza, interest rates increase the real cost considerably. When you’re already borrowing money to pay tuition, your graduation celebration can turn downright depressing under a heavy load of debt.

Although textbooks are indeed a necessity, there are a number of ways you can save money each semester. Campus bookstores often have used textbooks for sale or will rent textbooks to you for the duration of the semester. As well, campus bulletin boards are utilized by other students who wish to sell their used books, often at a lower cost than the bookstore charges. You may even be able to get fellow students to loan you books for a semester if they don’t want to sell them.

Campus bookstores aren’t always the least expensive option. Amazon.com has a textbook department in which you can purchase new or used textbooks, rent textbooks or purchase e-textbooks, all at a considerable savings. Other sites offering textbooks rentals (at a considerable savings over purchasing books) include eCampus.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and RentScouter.com.

With some planning on your part, you can compile a list of textbooks you need for the coming semester (professors are often willing to provide a list of the ISBNs they will be requiring). With some comparative shopping, you can find the textbooks you need inexpensively, thereby avoiding the use of your credit card. With the money you save, you won’t have to use your credit card for pizzas either.

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